Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pretend: Bible Comment on II Maccabees 6 with poem by James Russell Lowell, The Present Crisis

Daily Readings
Proverbs 22, Joshua 11, II Maccabees 6, Colossians 4

Daily Text: II Maccabees 6

The two mothers and the group observing the Sabbath secretly in the cave were not making statements; rather they were under impossible conditions attempting to be faithful. There is, embedded in this history, the cant that Antiochus was simply trying to reform the Jewish religion. Some reform! Throwing mothers and their babies off the equivalent of the Tarpeian Rock and burning unresisting Sabbath observers! The argument of the text that this is God’s way of disciplining his own rings hollow. Those mentioned are not the impious, but the pious! While the larger meaning may be valid, its examples leave something to be desired. Rather it is reminiscent of the lesson in Job, that God does not always interfere with the suffering of his own.

Eleazar’s martyrdom is more instructive. Here is one who is respected, even loved by those who torment him. One gets the impression that his persecutor’s are his compatriots, ones who have given up the Jewish religion and embraced the Greek gods, though that is never made explicit. They give him an out, ‘bring your own meat’. Pretend that you are eating swine’s flesh; we will not insist that you actually do so. Eleazar saw through their mercy to the personal shame and its eventual affect on the young among his people. The record in II Maccabees 6: 24-28 of his response as he went to his death is worthy of every person’s consideration: “Such pretense is not worthy….Even if for the present I would avoid the punishment of mortals, yet whether I live or die I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty.”

from The Present Crisis
James Russell Lowell


Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,--
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

Collect for the Day
God, let me put right before interest,
Let me put others before self,
Let me put the things of the spirit
before the things of the body.
Let me put the attainment of noble ends
above the enjoyment of present pleasures
Let me put principle above reputation.
Let me put thee before all else.
[489:205 John Baillie, 1886-1960]


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